George A. Romero has long been the reigning zombie movie king, ever since his classic film Night of the Living Dead. I recently reviewed Zack Snyder’s remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and fell in love with it. Does George still reign as king of the zombies in the modern movie market?
Land of the Dead is, unlike Dawn of the Dead, a by-the-books zombie flick. The undead are plentiful, slow and stupid. But there’s a catch! In the surroundings of the fortified city where survivors of the zombie apocalypse reside the zombies have begun to show signs of evolution. They are learning! Well, more like remembering. They are relearning how to communicate and even operate in more intelligent manners. Couple that with their insatiable hunger for human flesh and you’ve got yourself a mess.
The movie starts out with a small group of fighters heading out to the old city to “clean up” the area by ridding it of zombies. This scene in the movie shows several examples of how the undead are beginning to learn and become more than just stumbling, flesh eating idiots. First off the creatures are beginning to become immune to the use of fireworks, or sky flowers, a strategy that has formerly rendered them incapacitated and so awe struck that they were unable to look away from the exploding fireworks. A second example is when the quickest learning zombie find himself holding the decapitated head of one of his zombified brethren, which was taken off with a chain gun. Of course the brain of a zombie remains active until the brain is destroyed so he stomps on his head to end his suffering.
From here the story splits to follow the activity of the humans as well as their undead counterparts, showing how the brain-eating cannibals slowly learn to develop a strategy to take over the inner city and how the humans react.The story can range from compelling to decently entertaining, but manages to move to keep you interested most of the way through.
The characters are all executed well by their actors and somewhat help to bring a sense of realism. Some of the leads include Riley (Simon Baker) who is the down to earth leader of the strike team and has the general good of the people in the city as his main priority, Cholo (John Leguizamo) who is basically Riley’s rival and acts against his orders despite the fact that Riley is his superior, and Big Daddy (Eugen Clark) who is the fastest learning zombie who ends up teaching and guiding his undead friends through their assault on the inner city.
From a visual standpoint the movie is rather impressive in most cases. There are some totally gruesome and disgusting killings, brains splatter wonderfully across wall, and CG is decent in most cases. There are times, however, when the disposals of zombies are just plain cheesy and unimpressive. Take, for instance, the drawbridge decapitation. These instances are few and far between, but they are still there.
Insanely gross. The sounds of skin being torn off of the bone is teeth gritting and the sound of brains exploding out of small bullet wounds in the head is gnarly. There are very few instances when audio doesn’t live up to it’s potential but it’s never really anything you’d notice unless being fairly picky.
Nothing that’ll blow you away, but they increase the value of the flick as well as help keep you entertained for a while. There’s even a section that shows how the stars of Shawn of the Dead made special cameo appearances in the film as chained up zombies people could pose in front of for pictures without being in harms way. There’s some neat stuff on there that’s worth checking out, as well as a little bit of garbage. Like the zombie casting call. Ugh.
While George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead is no fast paced and imaginative zombie blast fest, it’s a good traditional zombie movie, keeping all those long established myths of zombies true. Is this necessarily good? Not if you’re a fan of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead or 28 Days/Weeks later. The beings are dumb and slow, not insanely fast and inhumanly strong which cause action to slow to a simmer at times. But if you are a fan of Romero’s other films then this one will blow your expectations away.
When it comes right down to it I recommend Romero’s latest film as a rental, unless you are a zombie die-hard like myself in which case this movie should be added to your library immediately.
- Some neat extras
- Make up is excellent
- Sound effects are gnarly
- Most people don’t like the slow moving zombies
- Some cheesy effects
- Big Daddy’s teeth
Overall: 7.6/10 (Above average)
Story: 7.5/10 (Zombies are learning)
Screenplay: 7.5/10 (Decent yet sometimes cheesy, stupid zombies)
Video: 7.5/10 (Ranging from awesome to lame)
Audio: 8.0/10 (Mostly composed of the most gruesome effects I’ve ever heard)
Extras: 7.5/10 (Some entertainment, some stupid crap)